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December 7, 2009
Building Community, One Innovation at a Time

Here's an enterprising way of staying with the idea of developing a customer community, even if the first approach falls short. Back from a meeting of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, Jenna Boller reports on an effort by American Express to bring small business people together around their growth goals. 

First came the American Express OPEN Forum, an online "trading post" that has over seven-million registered users who "share advice, insights, and ideas to facilitate the types of connections needed to re-energize the economy." Despite high-grade content, however, OPEN wasn't catching on as intended. So American Express partnered with Meetup to spark "30 local small business Meetup groups across the country with curriculum and financial support to help them perform better in a down economy."

The program's goals:

1.) Pair OPEN with local small business Meetups to leverage their reach and develop a scalable program.

2.) Generate lift in OPEN brand attitudinal metric, showing it resonates among participants. (This could use a bit of translation.)

3.) Increase OPEN brand sentiment, ensuring small business owners understand OPEN is committed to serving their interests.

4.) Increase Meetup group organizer activity and morale.

In short, the program seeks to have functioning communities with both online and personal aspects. Boller reports on how the effort is going, and it seems well worth following.  

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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